September roster expansion is always interesting, but it is made even more interesting with our contending status. It likely changes the dynamic of who we do and don’t call up. Regardless, it is always a highly scrutinized time because roster moves are made, people are sent packing, and new opportunities can be found. I decided to give it a crack with September a month away. I break it down into categories and tiers and take my best guess on what I think happens. I hope you all enjoy.
Here is a link to the 40-man: http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/team/roster_40man.jsp?c_id=pit
Daniel McCutchen-This has been widely discussed as a strong possibility and I would put very little stock into the idea that because we brought him up for one game, the organization still values him. If I had to take a guess, and I have a feeling this guess is right, we brought him up because while waiting for Quaills to arrive, if AJ would of gone out and gotten shelled and yanked in three or four innings, McCutchen would of come in and taken a large bulk of innings. He had a big slide in the second half last year, pitched poorly in spring training this year, and has largely pitched sub-par in AAA. In no way does the organization think more highly of him than Morris, Slaten, etc… At least I hope not.
Evan Meek-I don’t know how often this has been suggested, but we’re getting to a point where he is becoming wasted space on the 40-man. He is never going to recapture his 2010 form, not to mention, his 2010 form is starting to appear flukier than it was skills based. Post injury, we have given him some opportunities and he has mostly struggled. I hate to say it’s time to give up on him, but I think we’re getting there. I say DFA him. I’m sure some team, most likely a non-contender with a really bad bullpen, would take a flier on him and he would see much more time than he ever would here.
I get to more DFA options along the way, but those are two main ones I wanted to isolate.
Bryan Morris-He has been incredibly impressive this year and I think could do a decent job replicating what Brad Lincoln was doing, as they both appear to be somewhat similar. He came up to Pittsburgh for like, a second, and proceeded to get sent back down after we never used him. While we never used him, I think it shows the organization is willing to put him with the big club and I think he will absolutely be up in September and as a further prediction, prove himself quite well.
Doug Slaten-This has got to be a super obvious choice. In addition to seeing a little bit of time this year with the big club, he has been stupid good for Indy. His ERA about a week ago was a 0.26 before he gave up a run *gasp* last night and dropped his ERA to a miserable 0.50. The question is, at least according to the link, he isn’t on the 40-man, correct? So a corresponding move would have to be made. That, in my opinion, is the only thing that could hold him back.
Chris Leroux-This seems pretty likely. He was going to be on the 25-man roster before his injury, he has pitched great with Indianapolis, and perhaps most importantly, they have stretched him out with starting gigs. In his last three starts, he has thrown fifteen innings of 2-run ball, so that boosts his value in long relief work. He has talent and pitched solid last year with heat that really surprised us all. Of course, a corresponding move would need to be made to add him to the 40-man.
Jeff Locke-This is another fairly obvious choice. Not only did the organization show a ton of faith in him last year by bringing him up right from Altoona, but he has also pitched this year in AAA, too, and he has pitched very well. He is carrying a sub-3 ERA with opponents hitting less than .250 against him. Baseball America this year gave him a big vote of confidence by saying he has the potential to be a solid number 3 in a rotation. I doubt he gets spot starts, especially if we are still in contention, but as a middle/long reliever, he definitely can have a purpose on this team in September.
Jose Tabata-So he is starting to hit the ball a little better with Indy. His average is up to almost .290 and he’s hitting over .350 in his last ten games. With that said, there is reports from everywhere that he is lazy and really half-assing his time with Indy, mainly in the field. I hate to see that. We all hate to see that out of a kid like Jose with such promise. Regardless, despite what claims are made, I still don’t see the organization letting him be dormant for an entire month. Maybe getting to be back with the ball club in a hopeful pennant raise could be good for him and his attitude and it always appeared that despite his “efforts” and “injuries” the players seem to be fond of him. He probably doesn’t ever start, unless if we fall off the map, but as a bench bat and a late inning replacement on the base paths, I don’t see any issues. (Not calling him a skilled base runner, but he has speed and could definitely be brought in for someone like Barajas or Pedro late in a ball game to pinch run.)
Justin Wilson-He is on the 40-man, so it is definitely a possibility. He throws wicked heat and has solid overall stuff. The obvious issue here is his control/command still needs work. If he was brought up, I highly doubt he would be used in a high leverage situation, but who knows. Most likely, he would be used in mop up duty because it would really be quite risky putting him in untested in a major situation. With that said, if that was the case, and he proved himself in mop up work with good control, his role could slightly increase. If anything, having another lefty in the bullpen outside of Watson would be nice. (Though with Locke likely coming up, he is also a lefty, but I’m speaking strictly for shortened situations, but who knows how they would use Locke.)
Jeff Clement-This has also been widely discussed but it is an argument that gets quickly squashed with the fact that he isn’t on the 40-man. Jeff has been great this year with Indy, swallowing his pride as a former first round bust and going on to post roughly a .900 OPS, showing power and the ability to hit for contact in the process. He still strikes out a lot, but his plate discipline and pitch selection appears to have improved. He could just be feasting on minor league pitching, though, and his major league track record is fairly awful. Still, I see no harm in adding him to roster as a bench bat, as well as an emergency catcher. For some reason, and I don’t know why, but if he was with the team in September, I have this weird feeling that at one point he would come up with a big hit. Just a strange gut feeling, but for some reason I can envision it. I think his great play this year along with his professionalism towards his entire situation has allowed him to earn the opportunity, now it is up to front office to give it to him.
Matt Hague-This is definitely a possibility. I just don’t see both him and Clement moved up, because that would give us like, 47 first baseman. He has been hitting well as of late, and also been playing a little bit of third, so there is some slight value there. Still, as likely as he could be called up, I also think he is quite expendable and a dark horse option to be DFA’d. In his time in the big leagues, we gave him almost 75 at bats (granted, is still SSS,) and while he wasn’t absolutely horrid, he certainly wasn’t good either. He is what he is. A low floor, low ceiling, replacement level player who can hit fairly well for contact, but nowhere near well enough power for a corner infielder. His best value as a bat off the bench is that he can put the ball in play and if there was ever a situation when we had a runner on third and needed at a minimum, a productive out, it would be a good spot for him
Evan Meek-I know I just wrote a lot about why I think he might be a DFA candidate, but on that same token, he still is former all-star Evan Meek, so I think he also has a chance of being added, just because he’s Evan Meek. I personally would take a whole slew of players before him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he got called up.
Next Tier of Other Possibilities:
Eric Fryer-He is kind of like the situation I laid out with Hague. Teams do like to carry a third catcher in September (we did it last year when we brought in that guy Matt Pagnozzi, remember him? Yeah, most unmemorable Pirate ever.) He certainly hasn’t set the world on fire with his hitting this year, which actually has been quite awful, but from what I understand, his defense has been okay. I really would highly doubt he ever sees any playing time, minus maybe like, one pinch hit opportunity, but he also is very athletic for a catcher, can run the bases and be an absolute emergency outfielder. If Clement got called up, though, probably slim chance Fryer would since Jeff could fulfill the emergency catcher role. Much like Hague, he could maybe be called up (Hague has a much better chance, though) but he is also a decent candidate for being DFA’d to clear room. I see no reason we carry him on the 40-man next year with Tony Sanchez likely being added, so I don’t think anyone would care if we got rid of him now.
Yamaico Navarro-He has very quietly hit the ball quite well with Indy after his much forgotten cup of coffee with the team this year. I still say it’s a long shot, though. Counting Tabata, along with the scary idea that Harrison could be an emergency emergency emergency last resort outfielder, we would have seven guys who could play the outfield. But he also sort of play short, and third. Actually the more I type this, the more compelled I am to move him to the next tier. The other factor is that he might be in the organization doghouse because of his DUI, but honestly, I doubt that is the reason he wouldn’t see time in September. I could also see a situation where if we decide not to bring him up, we just DFA him. We probably won’t protect him next year, and it would just be a move out of courtesy, since another team might take a flier on him.
Duke Welker-I was considering moving him up to the tier above this, but the more I think about it, we have more than enough bullpen depth. He has pitched well this year, and perhaps has more velocity and heat than anyone else on our roster, but come September, the bullpen will already be a saturated market. Not to mention, he was put on the temporary DL recently and there would be no point in bringing him up and risking injury.
Kyle McPherson-I know it would be fairly similar to what we did with Locke last year, but we are in a playoff race. McPherson is very talented and I think the best move for him would be to spend the final month with Indy.
Also included: Chase d’Arnaud isn’t going to happen, so that.
Victor Black-This has been discussed before, including WTM last night in the minor league recap after another great outing by him. He has been putting up Grilli-esque type numbers with his strikeout rate and seems to be far more skilled than AA has to offer. As WTM also pointed out, Black has to be protected after this season anyway, so if it can get done now, why not? At the very least, I think seeing him in AAA would be a nice step, but if I had to pick between him, Welker and McPherson for playing in September, I would go with him. This is probably a slim possibility, but an intriguing one, none the less.
So to recap, I would say going in order by tiers in likelihood to be moved up in September:
Strong lock(e)s already on the 40-man: Morris, Tabata, Locke
Likely, but need to make a roster move: Leroux, Slaten
Other possibilities on the 40-man: Wilson, Hague, Navarro, Fryer, Meek
Other possibilities not on the 40-man: Clement
On the 40-man, but not very likely: Welker, McPherson
Victor Black Sleepers: Victor Black
So obviously, if we move X amount of players to the 40-man roster, that would require moving X amount off of it, so I would guess, roughly in this order, is the pecking order:
1. Daniel McCutchen
2. Evan Meek
3. Eric Fryer
4. Yamico Navarro
5. Matt Hague
The one I could be really off base about is Evan Meek. This is my opinion, and my guess is that people on this board might have different opinions. Also, can someone fill me in on Oscar Tejada? Is he even eligible to be DFA’d and if so, is he worth it? The other possibility, and it’s a really low one, is if Quaills performs really poorly this month, I wouldn’t be completely stunned if we just parted ways with him.
So I leave it to you with responses, ideas, questions, comments, yelling at something you think is stupid, etc…